Are New Year’s resolutions simply an exercise in futility? By the first week, 27% of us abandon our goals. At the two-week mark, 31% of people quit, and just over half of us make it to the one-month mark, according to Statistic Brain. It seems staying power is a rare commodity, but we could be setting ourselves up for failure in the way we set our goals, experts says.
“Resolutions fail because they’re different from real commitments that are rooted in deeply held values, interests, and beliefs,” says Jeff Zwiefel, COO Life Time. “Commitment is the real driver and motivator behind lasting change.”
To last, a resolution should be something that moves you down to your very soul, says Daryl Gioffre, author of Get Off Your Acid: 7 Steps in 7 Days to Lose Weight, Fight Inflammation, and Reclaim Your Health and Energy. “When the challenging times come up, you have a purpose wrapped around your goals so strong that you will find a way to obtain the goals, as opposed to abandoning them like so many do,” he says.
Just because most people fail at sticking to a resolution doesn’t mean you can’t be in the minority who succeeds. Here are seven things you can do to improve your chances of making the change.
1. Focus On Goals Instead Of Activities
Too often resolutions focus on activities, says organizing and time management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Never Check Email in the Morning. For example, “I’m going to go to the gym three times a week.” “I’m going to go on a diet and lose 20 pounds.” Or, “I’m going to break my email habit.”
“Those are just activities, and there’s a bigger purpose of why you want to do that,” she says in this YouTube video.
Instead, make a resolution to diet or kick your email habit and focus on the end goal, such as maximizing your health or being more engaged with people in your life. “The activities to get you there can change,” she says. “The goals stay steady. They’re your rudder for 2018.”
2. The Steps To Success Should Be Small
The key to sticking with a resolution is to implement one small change at a time, says Gioffre. “Start with one or two habits, then once those become natural and you don’t even have to think about them, consider adding on a few more,” he says. “As soon as one thing is habit and part of your everyday life, it’ll be easy to add something new.”
Small goals that can be achieved over time are best, says Zwiefel. “Break it down into pieces,” he says. “People fail when they set unrealistic goals.”
3. Find A Quick Win
Most people make resolutions in a bubble of self-disgust and over-optimism, says Michelle Segar, director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center at the University of Michigan. “Then the bubble bursts within weeks by real life’s needs and urgencies,” she says.
Instead of making resolutions for habits they believe should pay off in the future, redefine your resolution with a more immediate win. “Humans are more motivated by immediately experienced goals than ones they have to wait to receive,” she says.
Make sure the quick win isn’t too hard or too easy, adds Alex Stajkovic, assistant professor of management and human resources at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin. “Easy goals are not motivating, and goals perceived to be beyond our ability may cause cessation of effort,” he says.
4. Educate Yourself Around Your Goal
A lot of misinformation exists around common resolutions, especially when it comes to health and wellness, says Zwiefel. “There is no such thing as a quick fix or a magic bullet approach,” he says. “Consumers have been historically bombarded with media headlines that are conflicting soundbites.”
Take the time to gain knowledge about the resolution you’re making, as well as the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Talk to people who have accomplished what you want to do. “Having great resources will help you stick with your plan,” Zwiefel says.
5. Fight Boredom With Variety
Sometimes resolutions are broken because the repetition of new habits becomes stale. If your goal is fitness, for example, mix up your activities, suggests Zwiefel.
“Variety is key,” he says. “Do 10 minutes of the treadmill, 10 minutes on an elliptical, and 10 on the bike. Small things add up to much bigger results and create the building blocks for success.”
6. Change Your Language
The words we speak create what we experience in life, and describing your goals incorrectly can derail you, says May McCarthy, author of The Path to Wealth. “We believe we are setting good New Year’s resolutions with statements like, ‘My goal is to make more money,’ ‘I would like a new job,’ or ‘I want to lose 20 pounds,'” she says. “You will never meet your goals with statements like those.”
Modify your statements with gratitude for what already is, says McCarthy. “For example, if you were to say, ‘I want to make more money,’ you will be forever wanting more, because you are declaring that you don’t have enough,” she explains. Instead, decide exactly how much money you would like to have and rephrase your goal. For example, “I’m grateful that I have abundance in my life. I am fully supported and provided for at all times in all ways and love being financially free.”
7. Expect to Make Mistakes
Every resolution maker makes mistakes and breaks their promise. The key is not to throw in the towel. Research published in Psychology Today states that 71% of people who were successful in keeping their resolutions slipped in the first month, the same rate as did people who were not successful.
“The people who were successful didn’t quit after making a mistake. And in many cases, they doubled their efforts after the slip. This demonstrates that persistence is also key,” the article states.